Mrs. C.R. Grundy: A life well written
Editor’s note: There appeared on the editor’s desk this week – as if placed there by a ghost – this tribute to longtime Star-News columnist “Mrs. C.R. Grundy.”
The actual identity of “Mrs. Grundy,” the nom de plume chosen by Joseph Cecil Wingard, was perhaps the worst-kept secret in town. The tribute is pitch perfect, and printed here in its entirety. Sue Bass Wilson and Roger Powell each claim the other must have written it. No matter the author, we are certain “Mrs. Grundy” would be flattered and pleased by this submission under the pen name “S.C. Grundy.”
Peeping through my lace doily curtain, I saw a figure walking down my stone path, winding between the camellias losing their December blooms. I did not know this stranger, yet her eyes showed a great bereavement. She introduced herself as Miss Cora Covington, and with deepest regret, she delivered the news of the passing of my great aunt, Mrs. C.R. Grundy. I was without words. “Aunt Gee,” as I called her, would send me letters regarding life in her beloved “Dimple of Dixie” and the goings-on of its fair denizens, and Miss Cora was regularly featured in these dialogues. Despite my living quite a distance away, Aunt Gee had entrusted Miss Cora to deliver this news to me in person.
I asked Miss Cora to come in from the bitter cold, take a seat by my tea table, and tell me what happened. As we sipped warm cups of apple cider, Miss Cora informed me that Aunt Gee had battled an illness for some time and wished to spend her final days with her beloved father and brothers. Miss Cora described how courageously Aunt Gee fought, how she never wanted others to know the challenges she faced, and how there will never be another C.R. Grundy.
Miss Cora went on to detail Aunt Gee’s funeral, which was filled with the ceremonial pageantry and dignity that Aunt Gee desired in every event. Miss Cora and her sisters, Miss Dora and Miss Flora, helped to plan the occasion at a small country church. Miss Flora created the floral arrangements, gathered from the lush gardens of Covington Hall. Miss Priscilla Primme ensured that Aunt Gee was “dressed to the nines.” Miss Primme’s beau, Mr. Topper Propper, placed a truly unusual piece alongside Aunt Gee: a well-worn rabbit puppet with a dollar bill tucked gently between its front paws. The distinguished Baraca Sunday School Class provided the hymns with the group’s venerable organist providing the accompaniment. Colonel Covington provided the eulogy, which covered Aunt Gee’s passions for literature, travel, and education, as well as her love of the Lord, family, friends, and life. The Colonel also made mention of the countless discussions he and Aunt Gee shared at the Andalusia Lyceum. The service closed with an excerpt read aloud from “A Psalm of Life” by the American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:
“Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate; Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.”
Aunt Gee was laid to rest beside her beloved mother in the church cemetery. Near the gravesite grows a Southern live oak, its thick branches adorned with Spanish moss and a crisp winter breeze gliding through its leaves. A small pond accented with lily pads and cattails also resides nearby, its waters gently lapping against the banks as the frogs and crickets provide a lovely chorus in warmer seasons.
Following the burial, a small reception was held in the church fellowship hall. The Portly Gentleman especially enjoyed the store-bought red velvet cake, the delectable petit fours, and the homemade English tea cakes. As he waddled past, his plate stacked high, he proudly proclaimed, “I always have room for dessert!”
Counted among the attendees were Mrs. Gotrocks from Greenville, Miss Purdie Birdie, and countless lives touched by Aunt Gee throughout the years. Clay Clyde “Clydie” Clump also motored to the event, though Clydie regretted traveling by motorized “scooter” along the Eugene Crum Foshee, Sr. Highway.
I thanked Miss Cora for her visit and for honoring Aunt Gee’s wishes. As Miss Cora gathered her peacoat to depart, I sifted through the letters scattered across my roll top desk, scurrying to find the last letter Aunt Gee sent me. As I pulled it from its stack, I gently unfolded it as we read it together. Aside from the typical whimsy and wonder, a new detail stuck out in light of this news; the faintest of tear stains and the slightest of smudged ink accented her final written words to me:
“Now, Gentle Reader, allow me to join Buffalo Bob Smith in encouraging each of us to be in his place of worship this weekend, Lord willing.
“Fare thee well.”